The drums of war are beating furiously. Our country is poised to attack Syria and may do so at any moment. The current justification for this possible attack is the supposed use of chemical weapons by the government of Syria. However, right-wing politicians have been looking for an excuse to attack Syria for several years.

A military attack upon Syria would be a terrible mistake and a blatant violation of international law. A civil war has been raging in Syria for the last two years. It is extremely unclear which side used chemical weapons in the recent incident (government or rebels) and how extensive this sarin gas attack actually was. U.S. military intervention in Syria would expand the current war and greatly increase the number of people killed. By no stretch of the imagination would such intervention be a humanitarian deed.

The civil war in Syria is not a simple contest between good and evil. The Assad government has certainly been a brutal dictatorship, but it continues to have significant domestic support. The rebels are a very mixed bag and have committed their own share of crimes. Some rebel groups would impose a theological dictatorship in Syria if they ever came to power.

Many people have already been killed in the Syrian civil war. A negotiated settlement is imperative to avoid untold further bloodshed. A U.S. attack on Syria will reduce the possibility of a negotiated settlement. It will, on the contrary, fan the flames of sectarian conflict between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims which could engulf the entire Middle East.


Military intervention is a very slippery slope. Initiating an attack is far easier than extracting oneself from the ensuing conflict. If our country bombs Syria we may find ourselves sucked into a very long war like that in Iraq and Afghanistan. No vital U.S. interests are at stake in Syria. Attacking a country without U.N. authorization violates international law. The United States can do the right moral thing, the right legal thing, the right political thing, and the right economic thing by staying out of the war in Syria.

Vigils will be held Friday at noon at the fountain area of the UMC, University of Colorado-Boulder, and on Saturday at Canyon and Broadway from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Please call President Obama at 202-456-1111 and tell him not to attack Syria and to support negotiations instead.

Tom Mayer is professor emeritus in the University of Colorado's department of sociology and a long time peace and justice activist. The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.